By Will Montgomery
The fresh produce is incredible, better than you’ve ever tried, I promise. The place popped up winter of the year you turned nine. People couldn’t get enough. You loved the summer corn and edamame salad, your mom got it for your catered middle school graduation party. On nights when she got too wine drunk to cook, the eggplant and ricotta cheese pizza always saved the day. Not long till you’d come to associate the crunchy creamy pesto pie with the smell of burnt lasagna or chicken. Leftovers for lunch the next day.
High school was punctuated with peach prosciutto and sauteed salmon with tomatoes and onions. When the back end farmers market opened sophomore year touting every delicious juicy home-grown piece of produce cooked up and served in the front end restaurant, it would be a long time before you would eat something not grown in the charming township of Shelburne, Vermont. Mom loved it, sent Dad out constantly to get the fresh carrots and cucumbers, shiny and saturated with color and twice the average size. It’s incredible! They would say. They marveled over the veggies, the fruit. Organic, Non-GMO, local. What more could you want? The veggies grew and grew in popularity. Prizes won at state fairs dotted the papers, Shelburne was becoming famous!
Feta watermelon quinoa salad in the summer, butternut squash pasta with a brown sugar reduction sauce in the winter. School trip to learn about local agriculture, snap photos of the fields where the countries best vegetables are grown. But never closer than that. Never walk on the precious soil in fear of contaminating the goods, we were told. Calendar pages torn off and discarded, new shoes for back to school, midterms, prom. You eat kale. Thank god, you think, I eat so clean. Thank god I live in a place with such fair weather, such fertile soil. The horn of plenty, the hidden valley. Shelburne is visited by celebrities, politicians. They all want a taste.
It’s nighttime. It’s summer. First summer back since college. July 14th, Your first time on MDMA. Friends you haven’t seen in three years. The suburban landscape is vibrating and the playground you grew up on feels alien now that its been so long since you just played. Borrowed bike, dirt path through the woods behind your old elementary school. The meadows. Open sky above you, the river on the right side of the path beyond the trees, open fields on the other. God, it feels good to be back here. Wind in hair, hair in face. Face pointed towards the stars.
Ahead, a fork in the path. Left. Another fork. Left again. Another fork. Right this time. The path ends and transforms itself into a sprawling field of corn. Marvelous. You three discard your bikes and run in headfirst. The feeling of the stalks brushing your clothes, your bare, sweaty arms smarting with the cool breeze. It’s almost too much to take in. The molly widens your stride, increases your pace to a frenzied sprint. Nature, agriculture, horn of plenty the breathless voice in your head intoned. A stalk catches your trainers and you fall face first into the black soil. Roots, dirt, earth, your hands press into the warm substrate and you curl your fingers around it. It’s so soft, you start digging. Pushing the soil back and forth, under your nails, into the knees of your blue jeans. Beside you lay your friends, back to the earth and front to the heavens. In the dirt your hand encounters a foreign object. A root? Too smooth. You tighten your hand around it, try to dislodge it. It pulls free, and you fall back onto your butt. The shallow moonlight doesn’t illuminate much, just silhouettes, but the texture of the object is nearly undeniable. You’re on drugs, you’re on drugs, you’re on drugs, you’re on drugs. This is just your head playing tricks. You stand, head above the rows of corn. The light is better up here. You raise your hand to eye level. It isn’t.
It is. It fucking reeks. A ring. A finger, five fingers. Held between your index finger and thumb, is a thumb. Attached to the thumb is a human hand, grimy with dirt and mushy like an overripe pear. You drop it to the ground and fall on your hands and knees, retching with disgust. Where you fall, you begin to see more that was uncovered by your digging. The contours of an ear are visible under a dusting of soil, is that a toe near that stalk there? It probably is. You need to leave. You run over to your friends, incoherent and mouth tasting like vomit. Where are they? The patch of bare soil where they lay is empty once more. There’s a violent rustling among the corn.
There’s a beam of white light striking you directly between the eyes. A voice from behind the light growls, “This is private property”.